"But right now Mr. Obama's backers seem to lack all conviction, perhaps because the prosaic reality of his administration isn't living up to their dreams of transformation. Meanwhile, the angry right is filled with a passionate intensity."
In other places, (warning: big file). I have written about conviction and how conviction is managed as a problem of liberal democratic theory and practice. What i find useful about Krugman's description is how conviction and "passionate intensity" define one another. Conviction is a passionate intensity. The Obama administration may be said to be rhetorically failing in this moment because they are unable to activate a passionate intensity (conviction) for change. However, Obama's desire for a new politics to replace the "politics as usual" is motivated by a desire to cool the passionate intensities he needs to promote change. In other words, his rhetorical intensity may inspire and direct the desire for change, but it does so in the name of legislative process and compromise. A conviction for compromise is not very inspiring.
To get scholastic: The passionate intensity of conviction is best suited for a hegemonic politics, it does not lend itself to a dialogic politics. Moreover, the health care debate expresses a biopolitics, it is politics about life. As the "Town Hall Mobs'" illustrate, the right understands the affective dimension of biopolitics (health care); they understand that if they can tie "government health care" to the "dialogic reasoning" of the State, they win. Obama needs an enemy, quick. Start naming names. The insurance companies and the drug companies are a good place to start as well as those congressional leaders in the back pocket of these companies. Politics and sports have one thing in common: win or go home. Its time for Obama to get the crowd back into the game.